Nurture Your Network

6 minutes, 6 links

You’re reading an excerpt of Ask Me This Instead: Flip the Interview to Land Your Dream Job, a book by Kendra Haberkorn. This powerful work is written by a veteran recruiter for job-seekers who want to find their dream job—not just the next job. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, worksheets and a question database, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

Nurture Your Network

You should start looking for a job long before you’re ready to apply or make the move. This is the interviewing equivalent of “always be closing.” You should “always be looking.” To do this successfully, you need to find credible websites that focus on the roles and companies that are most in line with your interests (for example, B Work for mission-driven job seekers, Jopwell for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals, or FlexJobs for remote or work-from-home roles). To find these niche boards, pair a role or function, for example “design” with the words “job board” and you’ll quickly discover sites like Dribbble or Behance. These are not the big job search engine sites. Those sites, including LinkedIn or Indeed, can be helpful when you know precisely what you’re searching for and want to see what openings might be available within your geographic area or search criteria. Next, you should subscribe to newsletters or updates that you can consume on your own timeline (or when an interesting subject line catches your eye) and that include reliable highlights about leaders challenging the status quo, companies making a difference, or products that are changing the way people perceive, experience, or spend their money within a particular space.

Even if you do not want to have a prolific voice on social media, establishing a presence by following interesting people who comment on relevant topics, have roles that you’d aspire to have or who surface articles, podcasts, or posts that intrigue you is beneficial. “Using Twitter,” by Fadeke Adegbuyi provides expert advice on how to use Twitter to find a job (including those that are never posted!), build your network, and advance your career. This is important to start and sustain before you need a job, you never know when you might hear or find something worth pursuing!

important You should also cultivate and invest in your network on an ongoing basis. Your LinkedIn connections are only valuable if you can activate them (i.e. get a response when you reach out)! One strategy is to organize your connections into three groups.

  1. Connections you need to stay in touch with—these are the individuals who have made a difference in your career, with whom you’d gladly work again, people you could ask to be a reference, or who you believe will play an important ongoing role in your career. This group is probably 15–20% of your network.

    • Make a plan to reach out to these individuals 2–3 times a year if you’re not actively working with them. I block time at a couple intervals throughout the year to actively touch base with this group within my network. One of my touchpoints is a personal email or LinkedIn message and then I try to text, comment on a milestone post, or get together in person (outside of a pandemic) for another touchpoint.
  2. Connections you want to stay in touch with or build a relationship with—these are individuals who are not as close as those in the group above but who might work in a similar role or field or at a company you find interesting, or individuals who you’d feel comfortable reaching out to if you were looking for advice or a new role. This group likely represents about 25% of your network.

    • Check in with this group at least once a year via a personal email, LinkedIn message, text, or a coffee meetup. This group has the potential to point you toward interesting opportunities you would otherwise not hear about!
  3. Other connections—these are individuals who you may have crossed paths with directly or who are in your network due to common connections, interesting posts, or quite possibly for some unknown reason! You may or may not have ever had a direct interaction. While it’s possible that these individuals could play an active role in your career, it’s unlikely. This group could represent 50% or more of your network.

    • Respond to requests that seem viable or interesting and comment, share, or like their posts if it makes sense.

Keep a pulse on what or who piques your interest consistently from the activities above. It’s possible that you will find a single, amazing opportunity that you’ll be able to pursue and everything will come together. Those rare instances where serendipity and the forces of the world converge can happen, and it’s exciting when they do. More often, it’s a process. You’ll follow people and companies or search for a category or two of roles and start to get a feeling for how particular companies and teams represent their opportunities. When you first start searching, you might have a pretty narrow set of criteria that you’re focusing on. As you progress, it will likely expand, and then, with many examples as a reference, you can begin to calibrate, see through the marketing (and occasional false advertising), to refine your efforts again in a more targeted direction.

Interview, Interview, Interview

You build on your power and seize your potential when you interview every chance you get. To the job of your dreams, you have to show up at your best. You don’t show up at your best without practicing. I want you to interview every chance you get, or at least every year.

important Why should you look elsewhere when you have a job you like? It’s the best way to make sure you are there for the right reasons—engaged, enthusiastic, and all-in. Thinking clearly about your career path and preparing to succeed in interviews is more easily approached when you’re not under the pressure of needing a new paycheck, and when you have the chance to weigh your current role’s pros and cons relative to any move you’d consider making. This provocative approach to interviewing opens the door for honest reflection throughout your career. It gives you the freedom to see what else is out there and determine if what you have is better than other options available. You can explore and have conversations to learn more about yourself and how a role and company can support your interests and priorities. It also helps you understand how your experience and skills are valued in the marketplace, which can help you negotiate an offer or go back to your company and ask for a raise. These realizations unlock something powerful—you have options.

If you keep your skills fresh, do your best in the role and cultivate relationships with current, former, and prospective colleagues, you won’t be stuck. So, even when you love your job, answer recruiters’ emails and apply for jobs that look amazing. Sometimes these efforts will go nowhere. Other times, they’ll yield worthwhile conversations and new insights. And maybe, they’ll end up pointing you to the next best opportunity for you—one that you wouldn’t have found without looking at your career as a journey with multiple destinations and a variety of ways to get from here to there.

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